Meet in Space

September 1, 2006

Space

Meet In Space

By Stephen Lindsley

Those with a finger on the pulse of the dining scene in St. Louis – especially those with long memories – are probably aware of Space Restaurant’s unique pedigree. Space is the third successful restaurant that today carries on the tradition of casual fine dining left behind by predecessors Redel’s and Colorado Restaurant.

Steeped in Tradition

Redel’s, founded in the DeBaliviere neighborhood by local culinary legend Lee Redel in the early 1980s, is where Space’s owner Jim Lindsley and executive chef Daniel Young got their start in the restaurant business. When an offer for the Redel’s building and surrounding land was too good to pass up the property was sold and the restaurant closed, much to the chagrin of an army of loyal regulars. They were not to be disappointed for long, however, as much of the Redel’s team re-assembled for the next critical and culinary success – Colorado Restaurant, located on the edge of Saint Louis University along Laclede Avenue in Midtown. Lindsley and Young were there for that western-themed eatery’s seven-year run, before eminent domain began pushing out its neighbors and the owners set their sights on something bigger.

Space is the Place

No, there are no NASA-themed items on the menu at Space. The name refers to the sheer size of the complex it occupies. Having outgrown the facility at Colorado Restaurant, The owners felt a larger venue was required. It was eventually discovered on the edge of St. Louis’ historic Hill neighborhood. Even the parking lot at Space dwarfs those at previous locations. But most importantly, the move to the Hill neighborhood meant a bigger dining room, new areas set aside for meetings and events, and an expanded kitchen area, giving chef Young and his staff ample room to ply their craft. The physical surroundings may have changed over the years, but many of the menu items that Redel’s regulars were lining up for in the ’80s are still on the menu.

In all, Lindsley and Young have worked together for nearly 20 years, and several other key kitchen staff members have accompanied them in their two-decade quest to bring a great dining experience to the St. Louis area. This is an impressive accomplishment, to say the least. Their loyal patrons have followed them as well, bringing their friends to the new spot that was quickly voted one of St. Louis’ best-kept secrets. But no secret this good could be kept for long …

Food, First and Foremost

Chef Young points to several reasons why Space continues to bask in the popularity of its predecessors. First, an emphasis on the basics. Many items such as soups and salad dressings are prepared from scratch in the kitchen every day. “Our soups are always very popular – they are one of Daniel’s specialties,” echoes Lindsley. Another point that Young brings up is the wide diversity of food offerings, in line with Space’s motto, “Something for Everyone.” Whether it’s soups, salads, pastas, steaks, seafood, sandwiches, pizza, a wide range of appetizers, or a full complement of wine, beer, martinis and other drinks, Space features a little bit of the best of everything.

“We always do fresh fish on Friday and Saturday nights,” says Young. “Lately we have done halibut, mahi-mahi and sea bass. One of the all-time favorites is my pan-seared halibut, served with shrimp and scallops, fried spinach, roasted tomatoes and mashed potatoes, all with a fresh herb beurre blanc sauce.”

Other favorites include the fried chicken dinner that includes two huge fried chicken breasts on a bed of mashed potatoes, the lunch-special fried chicken sandwich (which is equally enormous), chicken pesto pasta, baked spinach ravioli and gourmet pizzas including Papi’s Pizza, which adds fresh salad ingredients on top of a more traditional pizza foundation.

When you stop into Space be sure to have your name added to the lobster list. The last Friday and Saturday of every month are devoted to the special lobster dinner, which comes with two sides and a 1 ½ to 2-pound steamed lobster. Everyone on the list is contacted in advance, and fresh lobsters are ordered for those who make reservations. Of course, if someone in your group is adverse to shellfish – say your 3-year-old daughter, for instance – the rest of the menu options are always available, and everyone is welcome on lobster nights, not just those on the list.

Lunch at Space is a popular change of pace from the typical Italian cuisine found elsewhere on the Hill. Yes, you can get toasted ravioli at Space, but you can also try Matt’s homemade meatloaf, fresh tuna salad or a flank steak Philly. In the evenings Space is often populated by a diverse crowd in the stylish bar area, which is crowned by vintage radios set into the cobalt blue walls – another carry-over from the Redel’s days. Ask for one of Space’s signature drinks such as the Colorado Cocktail or Jim Fizz. Both the bar area and dining room offer semi-private tables for a more intimate experience, seating from as few as one or two up to a dozen or more. A generous patio is also open in the summer months, bounded by a custom-designed city-themed metal wall on one side and a soothing pastoral mural on another. A nearby herb garden provides fresh ingredients for the kitchen.

Meet in Space

Meeting planners will be pleased to note that the private and semi-private rooms at Space are offered at no additional charge. Just call in advance to secure a reservation. Apart from the semi-private dining areas (seating four, six or 12) the lower level features a private party room for up to 40 guests, including built-in TV with VCR/DVD and even video games if so desired. The patio accommodates up to 100, and is a popular destination for wedding receptions, birthday parties and before- or after-game festivities.

Don’t forget dessert! These are provided by some of the area’s best pastry chefs, though the Ellie Cake is baked from scratch on-site. Favorites often include unique cheesecakes, chocolate decadence cake, or a chocolate brownie with homemade cinnamon ice cream. The offerings are rarely the same twice, so make sure your server fills you in on the very latest.

Come for the great food and drinks at Space, but stay for the hip and unique atmosphere. An art gallery located just upstairs ensures a constantly changing feast for the eyes throughout the restaurant, featuring art by local and nationally known artists. Every time you visit you will find something new, from the back-lit computer motherboards that adorn the entranceway ceiling to the “A-tack dog” – a clever portrait of a black lab made entirely of push pins. The tables are topped with white butcher paper and oversized crayons are provided, encouraging patrons to create unique artwork of their own. The best of these – assuming they are not too splattered with lobster butter – are to be found in a large gilt frame near the back of the dining room.

For more information about Space, to reserve a table for dinner or a room for a meeting or event, contact Jim Lindsley or general manager Tim Nesbit at 314-773-2590. Space is conveniently located at the corner of South Kingshighway and Daggett, just south of Highway 44 and adjacent to the Kingshighway/Vandeventer viaduct. High-speed Wi-Fi Internet connectivity is available throughout the restaurant. Visit www.spacestl.com for details and directions.

(Stephen Lindsley is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)

(In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that owner Jim Lindsley is the author’s brother.)

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